QSFer Dan Ackerman has a new queer fantasy (gay, pan) out: “Casual Magic.”
Westley “West” Archer made a deal with the Devil for a failed high school crush. Now he answers questions for demons–a seedy job his family can never know about.
Kit is the seediest, sexiest demon who has ever come to West for help, smelling of cigarettes, covered in tattoos, with ripped jeans and tousled hair. Despite every instinct telling him to get Kit out of his life, West agrees to help the other man look into the murder of which he’s been falsely accused. He also agrees to a date or two along the way.
Helping Kit makes West reevaluate his prejudices and whether or not he should come clean to his family about the company he’s kept. Maybe a deal with the Devil doesn’t have to ruin his life.
Warning: eating disorders, murder.
It had been dark, just before dawn, when West had left the house for the jog. He tried to go every morning, with a lot of emphasis on tried, but it wasn’t his fault that it had been bitterly cold and snowy all winter. Spring had started to show its face and West had vowed to get back into a routine. He would be good, watch what he ate, and shed those ten pounds of winter weight. Maybe he would let Laurel set him up on a date. Maybe.
A date could be fun. It had been a long time since he’d been on a date and longer since he’d had fun on one, but he felt like it was time to get back in the game. Even if he didn’t find that swooning, immediate love of myth, maybe he’d at least get laid. It had been a long time since he’d gotten that. Long enough that he refused to answer when his friends asked.
As he approached the house, his hopeful mood soured as the light of day revealed a man sitting on his front steps.
Not just any man, but a light-skinned man in his early thirties that absolutely screamed trouble, from his ripped black jeans and scuffed boots to the cigarette that dangled between his fingers. He had his eyes fixed on the cigarette, not really smoking, just watching it go to ash. He glanced up when West got a little closer to the house, took a drag, then stubbed out the cigarette. He stood and moved towards West.
“I, uh.” The man raked a hand through his perfectly not-perfect hair, messy and unkempt, but not dirty looking. “Are you Wesley Archer?”
“Westley,” West corrected reflexively.
The man nodded and opened his mouth.
West pointed to the cigarette butt that he’d left on the walkway. “You’re not planning on leaving that there.”
“Oh. No.” He picked it up and glanced around. His eyes settled on the garbage can by the garage and he flicked it in, his aim uncommonly good.
Not surprising, West decided. The man had the look of a demon, with plenty of human dilution, of course, but not too many people had red eyes unless they had the Devil for an ancestor. The dark brick, more brown than red, of the man’s eyes told West all he needed to know about him.
West walked past the man and got up two steps before the man said, “You’re supposed to be able to answer questions.”
“Anyone can answer questions.” It was his usual brush off. It kept away those who had only hearsay to go on. People who had no business coming tracking him down to where he lived and asking him all sorts of things and bringing trouble around with them. The neighbors had noticed and brought it up to Laurel; that had been a mess to talk his way out of.
The man shoved his hand into the pocket of his leather jacket and rummaged for so long that West had almost reached the front door by the time he produced a black coin. He held it out to West uncertainly, this movement sending along the smell of cigarettes and old-fashioned cologne.
West eyed the coin, then took it with a sigh. The black wood was well-worn, and the symbol etched on one side had almost been rubbed off altogether. He squinted at it, making sure it was the right symbol. A few people had tried to hand him knock-offs and he’d been more careful since he’d gotten fooled by one.
“Do you think I could come in?” The man glanced up and down the street, his eyes skating over the cookie-cutter houses, the endless SUVs, the clean and straight sidewalks without any cracks. “It’s sort of sensitive, what I need to ask about?”
He handed back the coin. “Come back later.”
The man’s eyebrows, dark and angular, shot up. “Sorry?”
“Come back later. I just ran five miles and I need to get to work.”
“Oh.” The man scrubbed a hand over the faint stubble on his face. “Are you sure we can’t talk about this now?”
West, in fact, did not have to go to work. He hadn’t had a steady job in a while, instead subsisting on witchy odd jobs advertised in the Daily Craft and whatever else he could pick up. Random strangers hunting him down to answer questions didn’t pay and it had been made clear to him that he wasn’t allowed to charge for it, at least not in a currency he could use.
Dan Ackerman is a writer and educator who has lived in Connecticut for their entire life. They received wrote their Master’s thesis on representations of women in same-sex relationships in contemporary Spanish literature and cinema.
In their spare time, Dan continues to read and write, supplemented with a healthy amount of movie marathons and gaming.